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The Quonset Yard - pulling honey using the abandonment method

Saturday August 10th 2013 
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The plan for today is to go to Ribbon Creek in the Kananaskis for a hike.  Matti wants to see the Rockies.  I have not decided whether to go or to stay here and have a quiet day by myself.

Everyone except Jon and me left in the Toyota van at 9 AM headed for the Kananaskis.  Orams left Sophie, their huge black Burmese Mountain puppy here and we kept her in as we did not know if she would stay around or go looking for them.

Jon was working on a software installation remotely for a major corporation and supervising a crew of programmers by phone, so he had to stick around on call.  He had been up all night, too, so was getting a bit frayed. 

The job kept him on the phone for 12 hours overnight  and continued into the morning.  Large websites get an overhaul periodically and it always happens overnight.  The excuse is that web usership drops at night, but my suspicion is that this is the only time geeks are really awake.

As for me, I feel that Ellen's remaining time is short and that I should be sure to be at the hospital often.  There is no point in being there long, but important to be there when the medical situation changes and decisions must be made.

My feeling was right and I was glad I went up.  She did not wake up, but I was able to suggest adding liquids to a medication IV they were starting as she had been thirsty yesterday.

I filed a bottle of propane again, too.  Seems the forklift is using an awful lot of fuel. I guess I use it a lot these days.

Mavis came by the house on the way to visit Ellen and dropped off some baking.  She returned on the way back for coffee. 

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit.
Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

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Sunday August 11th 2013 
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Today is going to be hot.

Jean, Chris and I visited Ellen first thing this AM.  She seems comfortable, but did not quite wake up. 

Chris continued on to Lacombe, Jean, Nathan and I returned home and swam a while, then just hung out and had lunch. This Matti's last day here and we are just relaxing. 

It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog.
Mark Twain

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Monday August 12th 2013 
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I drove to Three Hills at eight-thirty to see Ellen and meet with the doctor.  He did not show, but I sat by the bed a while and went home.

Jon has a lot of work, so I drove Matti to YYC.  Even though his first flight is domestic to Toronto, he wanted to be early, so I dropped him off almost three hours before his flight.

From there, I went to Costco, bought some groceries, went to Wal-Mart and Extra Foods and Canadian Tire then drove home.

We had a steak supper and a quiet evening.  Oddly, steak does not appeal to me as much as it used to and my meat consumption has dropped considerably.

No one can earn a million dollars honestly.
William Jennings Bryan

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Tuesday August 13th 2013 
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I was late logging today.  Jean decided to go to Drumheller to take the kids to the Royal Tyrrell Museum and I opted in.  We had lunch at the A&W and drove back by the Dinosaur Trail, crossing the River at the Bleriot Ferry.  We arrived home at 3 PM in time for Jean to go online to host a writers forum.  Jon spent the day working downstairs on one of his software projects.

This is the first day that I have not gone to see Ellen in the morning and also the first day in a long while that I have not done my diary first thing.

We swam in what remained of the afternoon, relaxed, and I had a good nap.  After supper, Jean, Nathan and I drove up to see Ellen.  Her condition has not changed much except that she seems more relaxed.

Jon leaves one week from today.

Hell is paved with good Samaritans.
William M. Holden

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Wednesday August 14th 2013 
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The weather seems to be settling in for a good hot spell with a promise of a continuing flow. I have to get out to look at the bees.   Today is Wednesday Night Racing at the Glenmore Yacht Club and I think I may pass.  Zeke promised some others to take them as crew this week, but can get Jon and me a place on another boat.  We'll see later in the day.

We have a lot of fire blight showing up in our cotoneasters and a touch in the apples.  I should get Elijah strayed on pruning it off. today.  He had planned to work yesterday, but a friend of his needed help.  That was fine by me as I was away and then napping, so I was not too eager to teach him the new job.

As you can see, I did some writing today and managed to do some other things as well.  The diary continues below the BEE-L articles.

From BEE-L

>> That may be so (it would be illegal here in the UK) but will do nothing
>> to eliminate the spores which can remain viable for up to half a
>> century, so I suspect it is a remedy recommended by the chemical
>> companies looking to sell more.
>
>>However, some bees do have hygienic traits that enable them to deal
>>with AFB and prevent it becoming a problem. Roger Morse once told
>> me that he had colonies of bees that he found impossible to infect
>> with AFB!

> Tylosin, when properly applied, can be used to treat hives
> infected with AFB."

...We have been over and over this topic for decades here on BEE-L and nothing never seems to change except that after two decades of 'conscious raising' and missionary work with breeders and queen suppliers as well as some academic work, we do indeed have a lot more strains that resist AFB breakdown in varying degrees from not-so-well to (apparently) completely immune.

This characteristic (AFB resistance) has bled into the general North American (NA) bee population to the point where, when inspecting, I have not seen or heard of an entire yard breaking down with severe AFB for three decades. I have seen a large outfit with a few cells of ongoing AFB in hives scattered throughout the operation, though. Whether this was the initial phase of a disaster or just hives handling AFB, I don't know, but I do know that decades ago, the outbreak would not have been so minor or easily treatable. Several Tylosin treatments in fall will likely restore those thousands of hives to where AFB is never seen. (OTC works, but is pretty lame and unreliable by comparison).

Of course AFB spores will still be in the hives, but they always are in a commercial operation. Almost no one in North America with more than a few yards operates in a region where there is no likelihood of another beekeeper having or bringing in infected equipment and failing to recognize or manage a breakdown.

Consequently, we all have to assume we have AFB spores in out hives, whether we see AFB or not and decide which strategy to employ when an isolated case is found or we see a few infected cells in a number of hives.

Basically, in this day and age, AFB is one more thing to blame on the queen, so requeening is in order, as is questioning the ancestry of all the bees in the outfit and considering switching to better stock.

Then the question is whether to destroy or treat, or both, and whether to attempt to totally eradicate every last AFB spore or to live with and manage the risk. I choose to treat and be vigilant.

If only one frame or hive is involved, destruction makes sense, but if tens, hundreds or thousands of hives are involved, requeening, treatment and improved management makes more sense to me.

IMO, no matter how draconian the measures taken, no one can be absolutely certain that no AFB remains or that the source has been discovered and can be eliminated.

It has been demonstrated that several sequential treatments with Tylosin at recommended doses and timing can control AFB to the point where recurrence is very infrequent. So infrequent in fact, that the likelihood of breakdown is quite comparable to the likelihood of breakdown in new hives in many regions of NA. We know that there are still spores there, but good bee stock is not bothered by them.

Yards with virtually 100% of the hives broken down with severe AFB were common in the '70s when beekeepers bought packages with sister queens and installed a whole yard or where a beekeeper raised thousands of queens from one poorly selected mother queen. At that time, package producers had not yet learned to select for AFB resistance

I think we have Marla to thank for much of this raised awareness and for showing that the trait can be fixed in bees that are not mean and for her personal missionary work with bee suppliers, although Steve Tabor, Jerry and others deserve credit for promoting the idea earlier on.

So, as with most beekeeping questions, there is no one right answer. The solution is a question of economics. The cost of one approach must be weighed against the others, as is the probability of success and the consequences of failure. (What is the worst thing that could happen and how likely is it).

If you know you are not diligent and able to spot AFB, then, by all means, burn. (Actually, get right out of bees, please).

If you are diligent and able to make decisions, and have a large investment to save, then consider treating and learn how. Then decide based on a careful consideration of the options open to you.

Tylosin - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tylosin

Tylosin is a bacteriostat food additive used in veterinary medicine. It has a broad spectrum of activity against gram positive organisms and a limited range of gram negative organisms.[1] It is found naturally as a fermentation product of Streptomyces fradiae.[2]

Tylosin is used in veterinary medicine to treat bacterial infections in a wide range of species and has a high margin of safety.[3] It has also been used as a growth promotant in some species, and as a treatment for colitis in companion animals.[2]

 

> There are worries that, because of their routine widespread use,
> antibiotic resistance is becoming increasingly common and soon we
> will run out of any that work. This dismal prospect will affect not
> only the bees but also US! Best advice is not to use them unless you
> really have to.

While this makes sense, the problem comes with the phrase, "unless you
really have to". What does that mean???

Also, in today's interconnected world, what we do locally has to be
balanced against what is happening elsewhere.

We can conserve locally, but have a problem imported from the other
side of the globe in 12 hours or less. We can totally cease using
antibiotics, but these same chemicals are available on the street in
other countries and used widely by people totally uneducated in their
use. People from these areas can travel internationally with few
restrictions bringing their diseases, insects in luggage and local
bacteria. What they don't carry, can be shipped by container along with
products and foods.

So, as I see it, we have to use judgment in employing these products,
but also not kid ourselves. What we do personally probably matters
little in the larger scheme of things. Sorry if that is news to some
who wish to convince or coerce others into sacrificing comforts or
economics to some vague and flawed concept of conservation.

Additionally, the entire topic of resistance is little understood but
widely conjured up as a bogeyman. The mechanisms vary from situation
to situation, and most of what I hear -- as far as I can tell -- is simply
BS, used to scare people into accepting an otherwise barren argument.

 

-- Humour warning - unsuitable for the humourless reader --

There are only two kinds of beekeepers in North America.

(I state this generality with the usual allowance for a [very] few exceptions and those who have AFB and won't admit to themselves that they do):

1. Beekeepers who have AFB and know it, and
2. Beekeepers who have AFB and don't know it

That is assuming AFB is defined -- as the purists would have it -- as having even one AFB spore in a hive, no matter how viable that spore is or not, whether that sole spore is positioned to infect a larva or not, or accompanied by sufficient similar spores to manage the task or not. It's AFB.

Whether the bees would promptly dispatch that one infected larva STAT or not is not even a question in the minds of purists. That hive has AFB. Burn it. Burn the beekeeper, too. Shame!

As defined by the rest of us, AFB is a continuum, from where hives have a few spores of varying viability, possibly undetectable without destructive sampling and no sign of breakdown, to hives dead or dying with most brood cells occupied by larvae in varying stages of decomposition.

I doubt that anyone will find any wax or honey sample of any reasonable size in North America that does not contain at least one spore. Of course that is not something anyone can prove but something that extrapolates logically from what we know from what limited sampling that has been done. YMMV.

It has been proven that old spores can germinate and infect larvae, but the matter of what conditions must be present to do so and the level of infection resulting don't seem to be brought up when that observation is trotted out as justification for a scorched earth approach.

I have personally, out of curiosity placed several badly scaled up frames into a hive and treated with Tylosin to see what happens. Just as Pettis reported at an ABF (not AFB) meeting a decade ago, months later it was impossible to tell that there was ever AFB in that frame by simple observation. Years later there has been no recurrence.

So, the question then is really, how best to deal with an ubiquitous problem -- by destroying the host, or targeting the pest.

Personal philosophy, experience, level of education and economics (for Countryboy :) determines the answer.

I started the day late with a visit to the hospital.  Ellen was more peaceful than on previous visits, but not very responsive.  From there, I dropped in on the mental Health office as I have been advised I may need some counseling.  At this point, I don't feel any need, but I know I find fall and winter a bit depressing and they are coming along soon.  Together with losing Ellen, I may have some unpredictable reactions, so best to be prepared. Then I bought a few groceries and drove home. 

After lunch and a swim, I went out and pulled another 12 boxes of honey.  Now I am out of empties.

We swam again, then had supper.  After supper, Jon drove up to see Ellen and texted me that there was a bee truck at the UFA and several fire trucks plus the paramedics.  I wondered what that could be about and grabbed a veil and drove north.

When I arrived, the emergency vehicles had departed and I found a friend there assisting his Mexican staff repair a leaking fuel tank.  They were returning from the pollination fields with a few boxes of honey and a trailer on a flatbed and had noticed the fuel was low.  When they stopped to fill, they discovered that the added fuel was pouring out, so pulled away from the pumps and called to report the spill.  Then all the emergency vehicles arrived.

I visited Ellen and discussed the medication with the nurse on duty, then returned home.  That was about it for the day.

One other thing.  My second computer quit this afternoon and will not start past the Windows 8 symbol.  I'm guessing the hard drive has a problem.  If it gets that far, the system must read at least the beginning of the Windows boot.  Fortunately, I have kept weekly backups and all my important files are in Dropbox so I can share them between devices.  We'll see how good the backups are.

It turns out that the machine will not boot from a USB drive or CD, so the hardware must be cooked.

Opportunities multiply as they are seized.
Sun Tzu

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Thursday August 15th 2013 
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Today promises to be a scorcher at 33 degrees.  Maybe it will turn out to be a big honeyflow day.

40 Maps That Will Help You Make Sense of the World

I went to visit Ellen and consult with the nurses in Three Hills first thing this morning.  She was resting comfortably, but not conscious.  Breathing was labored.   I returned home and pulled more honey and also moved the honey stacks around the yard to evade the robbers.

Around noon,  Jean, Chris and kids went to Linden for pie.  At 3, Jean called and reported that Ellen had died while she was visiting.  Jean was sitting by the bed holding Ellen's hand and she stopped breathing and had no pulse.

We all drove to the hospital to thank the staff and remove a few last things from the room, and called our neighbour, Brian, who is a funeral director and gave instructions.  A meeting is planned at our home tomorrow at 9 AM.

Democracy does not guarantee equality of conditions.
It only guarantees equality of opportunity.
Irving Kristol

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Friday August 16th 2013 
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Brian was delayed as he needed to speak with the county about a plot, but we met around ten and went down to the cemetery to pick a plot. 

Ellen had insisted she wanted to be buried in the Swalwell Cemetery and joked she wanted to be buried near Barney, our former elevator agent, known for getting prodigiously drunk, driving off the road and waking up in the ditch and other peculiarities.  

I was never sure she was joking and on arrival we found that there was room right next to Barney, so we declined the plot that was already staked out for her and bought the plot next to Barney.

If she was joking, the joke is on her.  And the joke is on us, too.  We bought three more adjacent plots.  At $200 a plot plus GST, one cannot be too frugal.

Personally, I have no plan to die, but if I do -- and if they recover the body -- I guess I'll lie there, too, or at least my ashes will -- at least the urn and the remaining thimbleful that will not be scattered in my many favourite places (or maybe flushed down the toilet if I don't stop kidding around).

The rest of the day was spent in tidying and a bit of beekeeping. and sent out a circular email to friends and family.

Friday August 16, 2013

To Family and Friends:

I am writing to let you know that Ellen passed away yesterday, August 15th, just before 3 PM at the Three Hills Health Care Centre after being in a semi-coma for several days.

Although she never smoked, Ellen was diagnosed with a deadly metastasized lung cancer in late October 2011. She was treated at the Tom Baker Cancer Clinic in Calgary with good initial results and was quite well until April 2013.

Until she required a series of hospitalizations beginning in early July 2013, she was active, enjoying life, and spending good times with family and friends. Our 45th anniversary on May 15th was spent on our sailboat which is kept at Sidney on Vancouver Island. At home she was gardening and working in her art studio.

In late spring, she grew weaker and treatments were no longer helpful. She was hospitalized briefly in early July, then returned to the hospital again later that month. In the final two weeks she was in hospital, family visited numerous times daily and the staff at the hospital provided constant and compassionate care. At the time of her peaceful death our daughter, Jean, was sitting with her, holding her hand.

We will be burying Ellen on Saturday August 17th at 3 PM at the Swalwell Cemetery, located two and one half miles due south of Swalwell. http://goo.gl/maps/HscAa

The ceremony will be short and informal and all friends and acquaintances are welcome (but not expected to attend) graveside, and invited to return afterwards to our home at The Old Schoolhouse in Swalwell for snacks and visiting.

Since many friends and family are located at great distance, our plan is to have a simple, immediate burial and a memorial at a later date when people can plan to attend if they wish to do so. Further information will be sent by email and will also be posted at http://www.ellendick.com/memorial/

Allen Dick and family
 

Obituary

Ellen Mae Dick, 69, of Swalwell, Alberta, passed away August 15th 2013 at the Three Hills Health Care Centre.

Ellen loved art, creativity, underused words, adventures, and travel. Ellen was a commercial beekeeper and artist. Her studio, workshop and home since 1968 were the Old Schoolhouse in Swalwell.

Besides being a recognized Canadian painter, Ellen took her innovative designs to stained glass and other creative media. Her glass work can be found in many homes and in the Hanna Health Care Centre chapel, and her paintings depicting the Alberta prairies and summer skies are included in the Alberta Foundation of the Arts collection.

Ellen was born August 9, 1944 in Sudbury, Ontario, only daughter of Lily Maki and Kalle (Charlie) Jarvela. She attended elementary and high school in Sudbury and graduated From University College at the University of Toronto.

She is survived by her husband of 45 years, Allen Dick; son Jonathan Dick, his children: Katrina (11) and Kalle (10); and daughter Jean Oram, her husband Chris, and children: Mckenzie (10) and Nathan(2).

Burial takes place at the Swalwell Cemetery on Saturday August 17th 2013 at 3 PM. A memorial is planned for a later date to be announced. Further information will be available at www.ellendick.com/memorial/. Donations to the Three Hills Health Care Centre.

A small sampling of her work can be found at www.ellendick.com

What I did not include in the public material circulated , since the obit and letter were for a larger group than just beekeepers, was the fact that Ellen and Marnie Abel, with their partners' encouragement, decided to attend the main sessions and not the Ladies Auxiliary at the Alberta Beekeepers Association Annual General Meeting in South Calgary (1980?) . Up until that time, the terms were the "Men's Session", and the "Ladies Meeting". (That soon changed).

The two met little if any resistance or comment from the men and some approving smiles, but surprised the ladies and offended some.

Ellen also ran the field operation of our bee outfit for several years while I was in the computer business. She raised excellent queens for several years when we expanded.

At one point, she also decided that I had it easy running the bees and that her task of running the household was harder and suggested a switch.  I agreed and was Mr. Mom for a year or two until she decided that maybe the home life was easier for a smaller person and we switched back.

Most of the time after that we did share both the bee work and the housework.  I like to think I did a lot of housework even before that, but everyone has different standards.  There are some things I count as important, like vacuuming that she did not, and vice versa.

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.
Mark Twain

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Saturday August 17th 2013 
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This afternoon at 3, we bury Ellen's Earthly remains at the Swalwell cemetery.  Looking at the weather forecast, it is going to be hot. 

The plan is to be casual, just showing up at the cemetery at 3, along with those who wish to attend, say a few words, have others do so as well, lower the casket and throw in a bit of dirt, then go home and offer snacks to those who care to follow.

In view of my role as husband of the deceased, I had contemplated wearing my black suit, which I very seldom wear, but am thinking that if I do, I might pass out from the heat or sweat terribly.  We have said to be casual, but I am wondering if shorts and a tee shirt are appropriate, even if they are black. 

That is the least of the worries.  We've invited and unknown number of friends to drop by after.  That is fine if the weather is clear as we plan to entertain mostly outdoors, but if a thunderstorm appears, I am wondering if the house is ready for a crowd.  We'll have to arrange to have the Swalwell Hall on standby.  We do want everyone who wishes to to drop by our home for an hour or two.   Fortunately, I have family and good friends at hand and everyone falls in without being asked to make things work seamlessly. 

This should go well.

*   *   *   *   *

It did, and I did wear the suit.  42 people showed up and most came back to celebrate the occasion with snacks and some stayed for supper.  The adults visited and the kids played and swam until dark, when the mosquitoes chased us indoors.

After everyone left, there was a knock at the door.  Our neighbour Jim Baerg brought over a lasagna and salad and stayed for a visit.

There are some experiences in life which should not be demanded twice from any man,
and one of them is listening to the Brahms Requiem.
George Bernard Shaw

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Sunday August 18th 2013 
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We did next to nothing today.  The chairs are still outside.  We ate leftovers and mostly just chilled.  I started organizing papers.  I have my work cut out for me.

I moved the honey stacks again. They are getting lighter, as robbing continues in spite of the fact that we now have stable flies in the house and I had to spray for the second time this year.

The neighbours have cut their alfalfa again and baled it today into small square bales.

> Yesterday must have been a very difficult day.

Actually it was a relaxed, enjoyable and memorable day.  My kids, their kids and the neighbours all pitched in to get things ready at home for visitors, then we dressed up a bit and drove to the cemetery to meet the hearse.

At 3 PM, under bright sun, we conducted the burial. There was no service or proselytizing. She would not have wanted that. We held an informal  celebration of her life at graveside, with good friends on hand. The country cemetery is a beautiful setting on an isolated prairie hill overlooking the countryside and the weather could not have been more ideal. 

Forty-two family and friends gathered graveside, spoke about her and her meaning to each, cried a bit and then we lowered the box, threw in some dirt, and all went back to The Old Schoolhouse for snacks and beverages on the lawn. The kids played and swam and the adults visited until dark.

I slept well last night and awoke realizing how tough, but enjoyable the past few years have been and that I am now on my own. Of course I have close and supportive friends and family, but for the first time in over 45 years I have no partner to consider or consult.

Now I have to invent a future.  Alone, but not completely alone.

Here is a summary of events to date.

Jean posted this to Facebook just now:

"Since Mom's passing there have been birds. (Just before she was diagnosed a white owl woke her up by banging on her bedroom window. (Legend says they are a bad omen. You think? ))

The morning after her death Dad woke up to a hummingbird on the kitchen table. He opened the door and out it flew.

Yesterday a mama duck appeared on the pond with three babies.

Today there was a robin in her studio. When I caught it it refused to fly away. It sat in my hands and just looked at me--even though there were six breathless kids standing behind me. So we looked at each other for awhile before I convinced it to fly away.

Things happen in threes so I suppose this is the end of them. I've kind of been enjoying the bird adventures though... it feels like... well... I'll let you fill in the blank."

In the end, everything is a gag.
Charlie Chaplin

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Monday August 19th 2013 
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Today we have dinner at The Mill.  Otherwise nothing much to do except that Jon and the kids pack for their trip home tomorrow.

I should go through the hives and also do some alcohol washes to assess varroa levels soon, too.

I still have not dropped the gas tank on the 4X4 so that I can fill it again and use the truck more.

I managed to empty the fuel tank by driving as far as I dared and don't want to fill again until the job is done.  The gauge is  unreliable and that is one reason I am dropping it, since running anywhere below half on the gauge is risky.  Running a diesel out of fuel is not wise as they can be tricky to prime again.

I dread the job as it is one of those jobs that will take two hours or two days, depending whether the bolts come out or break off.  It also involves lying on the ground and having dirt drop on me from the undercarriage.

Once I get the tank fixed, I can deliver this honey to my friends and get more empties, hopefully before it is all robbed back into the hives and before the boxes on the hives are all filled up.

The other day, when I was pulling honey, and I returned to pick up the boxes, I noticed that one box did not abandon as expected, so I began shaking the bees off the combs.  I should have checked for the reason, though.  As I shook the second frame, I saw brood.  (below right)

Either the excluder had a wide space or a virgin returning from mating had entered the super.  At any rate, I looked for the queen and could not find her.  Did I shake her out?  I set the box up as a hive and will check later, maybe today.  Often a queen that cannot be found on one inspection is easy to find another day.

I worked through the hives in Quonset West and pulled another 5 boxes. I ran out of supers and had to put on some of my boxes from storage.

I checked brood chambers as I went.  I'm watching for AFB and other problems as well as for queens as well as spreading brood on occasion.  I don't check too closely, but look for anything out of the ordinary.  So far, so good.

I'm seeing some new queens come online now, but it is getting late to expect them to build populations capable of wintering.

I'm going to have to combine some down if the season does not continue into October.  The odds of that are not good, but we did have a year like that recently.  In my memory, though, there are several years with a killer frost on August 20.  Usually we get into September without a frost, but we have no guarantee.  The forecast for the coming week has nights well above freezing, but the weather guessers have often been wrong.

I tired of bee work and got to work on the truck.  The bolts came right out with the impact wrench, but I discovered there were still 40 litres in the 140 litre tank.  That is almost 1/3 full and that is what the gauge said.

40 litres is about 9 Imperial gallons or 60+ pounds of weight -- plus the weight of the tank.  The added weight made the job harder than expected.

I had used up as much fuel as I dared before dropping the tank to fix the  fuel gauge and plugged breather, but it is 1/3 full.  Maybe the gauge is reading correctly, and the intake is up off the bottom of the tank or sucking air on the pipe?  The breather does not seem plugged now, either.  I'll figure that out after I empty the tank and clean it.

Anyhow, I dropped the tank and siphoned the fuel out, then washed the tank so I can work on it.  By then it was time to quit to get ready to go to The Mill for supper.

Meijers showed up and picked up their full honey supers and dropped off some empties and we went to The Mill.  We had a good supper, although I think we were a bit more subdued than usual.  We celebrated a birthday, too in a low key sort of way.

A husband is what is left of the lover after the nerve has been extracted.
Helen Rowland

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